Sunday, February 10, 2013

Long Arm of the Hutt (part 1)

Several weeks back (when I still had an appendix, the loss of which delayed my face-to-face gaming), I ran the Edge of the Empire Beginner's Box.  We played through the entire adventure from the box, and then the first part of Long Arm of the Hutt (ending just before the Krayt Fang lands on Ryloth).

Fair warning, MINOR SPOILERS ahead.

I began the session with a recap, and quite a lot of exposition.  The player who originally controlled Pash was absent, so I said that he was very sick after eating what Trex had left them in the galley.  This meant that Oskara was the new pilot extraordinaire (the other characters being Lowhhrick and Mathus), and she drove the landspeeder at full throttle even through the dangerous, rocky passes on the way to New Meen.  Everyone failed their Perception rolls before the bounty hunter fight, which turned out to be very brutal.

Now, I thought I'd go easy on the players and have the two humans use their Stun Setting.  But not wanting to go too easy I had the Gand hang back at long range to take advantage of his superior weapon.  Well, the players insisted on doing the straight-up firefight thing (at least they made judicious use of cover!).  I thought they'd be captured when Oskara was the only one left standing on Team PC while all 3 bounty hunters were fine (ok, so the two humans were each pretty high on wounds, but whatever).  She pulled a risky maneuver by running up to the cave entrance, firing (with a Destiny Point) at the (now Medium range) Gand, then spending two strain to duck back behind cover.  A very solid hit!  And luckily, one using the last PC initiative slot.  With both of her companions down, she then took her turn at the top of the order to do essentially the same thing and bring down the Gand.  The bounty hunters retreated after the tide of battle was turned (though one of the humans revived the Gand with a stimpack).  They returned later while Mathus was repairing the landspeeder, and after having their own speeder shot down were basically forced to then fight to the death.  The danger of using a crashed vehicle as cover:  advantage can be spent to have the attacker hit the fuel tank.  Good thing it was one of the bounty hunters that got blown up this way!

Like I said last time, I don't like published adventurers and the more I try to run them, the more frustrated I get by them.  So after last session I simply summarized each Act of LAotH using bullet pointed notes on a single page.  I used detail and specific mechanics where necessary, but it was largely a matter of "reminding" myself of what I pictured in my head when I read through the adventure.  Reference points that I could expand upon later, freeing me up to improvise more.  It worked wonders!  Especially considering the crazy plan the PCs pulled when they got to New Meen.

They managed to get on "friendly" terms with Angu's thugs, basically just hoping to get access to his compound.  Which is all well and good, except the players suffered from some pretty severe option paralysis once they were in.  Nobody really had any great plans, and when a plan was suggested the other players generally thought it wouldn't work and/or was too risky.  Granted, some were downright absurd (after trying to gain access into Angu's fairly well-fortified residence undetected, Oskara's player asked "can Wookies dig like dogs?").  Good old-fashioned snooping around to see what happened ended up being the order of the day, and I got to exercise my DungeonWorld-inspired "play to see what happens" muscles here.  You know, for a game I haven't played yet I sure have incorporated a lot of its elements into my other games.

Some of the other players in my group who take turns at GMing usually have a lot of trouble with the idea of improvising.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm not super comfortable with at much of the time either, but I'm getting better.  I think going into the session with the expectation that I'd have to improvise helps quite a lot.  All I knew going in was that Angu Dromb would have a fenced-in compound atop a bluff.  I didn't even re-read the adventure for its suggestions about what was up there, aside from the fact that I remembered there was a cantina.  I wasn't sure if the PCs would ever see the place, so I didn't even really picture it in my own mind until they were at the front gate with their speeder, attempting to schmooze their way in via the intercom.  I provided details as the PCs saw them, almost seeing the story unfold myself as if through their eyes.  Granted I don't think my players are all that comfortable with sandbox-style games, but I plan to break them of that.  I'm sick of running games with a railroad planned out, regardless of whether or not I can disguise the rails.  Planning improvisation into the game makes GMing feel a little more like being a player.  Which works for me, at least, because the player type I most associate myself with is Explorer (to use D&D 4E DMG terminology).  If I can still "explore," even while GMing, I'll be all the happier.

To return back to the session's narrative, toward the end of the evening the PCs decided to try to break into the two warehouses where they suspected the stash of glitterstim lived.  Oh yeah, Angu's thugs were all partaking in that spice while in the cantina.  Anyways, after breaking into the warehouse Mathus goes snooping around inside (in the dark), but Oskara and Lowhhrick never really specified what their characters were doing.  Aside from the fact that they did not want to go inside.  So some thugs spot them standing their with the highest-security door in the whole place opened.  They call in reinforcements (did I mention that the PCs weren't allowed to bring their weapons in, except for the holdout blaster that Mathus was able to conceal and later give to Oskara?).  Four thugs enter the building, and Mathus makes a brilliant DP-empowered Coerce roll.  He took some parts from his Repair Kit and bluffed that he was holding a Thermal Detonator.  It was quite a good roll, and the thugs dropped their weapons (as they were told) and ran out of the building screaming.  Which freaked out the other thugs.  But not as much as when Mathus threw his "thermal detonator" out the door while Oskara and Lowhhrick dove inside.  Those terrified thugs took off as well.  The distraction didn't last too long, but it didn't need to.  The PCs spent their last light side Destiny Point to have some lockers contain more guns and grenades (which they'd been wishing they had since the bounty hunter fight), so I gave them some frag grenades.  They blow up the crates of glitterstim, jump into their speeder, blow up the front gate, and then hightail it back to Nabat (with some evidence against Angu, even if it wasn't quite all that they could have gotten).

That last bit made up for the fact that the whole middle of the session was slow.  Moral of the story: every RPG player needs to express a little bit of the Instigator player type (going back to 4E terminology).  I've been guilty of playing cautious, pragmatic characters myself, and played to "realistic" extent it bogs the game down.  Nobody remembers the session where you slowly, painstakingly do everything right with the smallest amount of risk.  The payoff is cool, but it's all pretend money.  The fun part is the crazy stunts you pull along the way, assuming you were crazy enough to try them in the first place.  You don't have to be a hyper reckless kick-in-the-door style player, but don't be too quick to dismiss the plan where lots of stuff gets blown up...


  1. In case any of my players read this, I was totally in favor of that "wreck shop with the earthmoving equipment" plan that never ended up happening.

  2. Great write-up! I'm about to run this on Sunday and I'll keep some of what you've mentioned in mind.

    My players are slightly more cautious and I expect them to plan a little before they go in (especially since two are relatively stealthy), but for all I know they'll try this approach.

    One thing I might recommend, if your players have put out a plan of action and they seem hesitant or aren't sure if they'll succeed, but you think it would be great and you want them to try it, I'll often try and give them a slight clue that it will succeed.

    Something like 'Sasha, roll a perception check.' or having someone do a light ranged check to realize you're staring at a row of blaster rifles with a blanket thrown over, for example.

    It seems like railroading a bit but my group never seems to mind and they'll often appreciate it.

    They can always choose to still not go with it though!